Old City (Jerusalem)

There are differing legal and diplomatic positions on Jerusalem held within the international community.[1] States and scholars alike are divided over the legal status of Jerusalem under international law.[2] Most countries of the world do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Many do not recognize it as a city that is properly Israel's. Many UN member states formally adhere to the United Nations proposal that Jerusalem should have an international status.[3]

The chief dispute revolves around Israel’s control of East Jerusalem, while broader agreement exists regarding Israeli presence in West Jerusalem, though not with regard to sovereignty.[2] De jure, the majority of UN member states and most international organisations do not recognise Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem which occurred after the 1967 Six Day War, nor its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation, which declared a "complete and united" Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.[4] As a result, foreign embassies are generally located in Tel Aviv.[3]

Jerusalem is a highly contentious issue in final status peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians who claim part or all of Jerusalem as Al Quds, the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has stated that “Jerusalem belongs to the Jewish people and will remain under Israeli sovereignty for eternity.”[5]



Jerusalem municipal area

From 1517 onwards the city was part of the Ottoman Empire and since 1830 it has had a Jewish majority. The 19th-century saw European countries vying for influence in the city, with some extending their protection over various Christian churches and Holy Places. A number of them also established consulates in Jerusalem. In 1917, following the First World War, Great Britain took control of Jerusalem. The principal Allied Powers recognized the unique spiritual and religious interests in Jerusalem among the world's three great monotheistic religions as "a sacred trust of civilization", and stipulated that the existing rights and claims connected with it be safeguarded in perpetuity, under international guarantee.[6]

Preceding the termination of the British Mandate of Palestine in May 1948, Great Britain requested that the United Nations General Assembly solve the territorial dispute between Arabs and Jews regarding Palestine. In November 1947 it adopted Resolution 181, which called for the partition of Palestine into an Arab and Jewish state, with Jerusalem being established as a corpus separatum, or a "separated body" with a special legal and political status, administered by the United Nations and separate from both states named in the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine.[7] Jewish representatives accepted the plan on the assumption that the Arabs would do likewise. However, the Arabs rejected the plan claiming it was illegal.[2]

With the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and the subsequent invasion by surrounding Arab states, the UN proposal for Jerusalem never materialised. The 1949 Armistice Agreements left Jordan in control of the eastern parts of the city, while the western sector was held by Israel.[8] Each side recognised the other's de facto control of their respective sectors.[9] The Armistice Agreement, however, was considered internationally as having no legal effect on the continued validity of the provisions of the partition resolution for the internationalisation of Jerusalem.[10] Soon after Israel declared that Jerusalem was an inseparable part of the State of Israel and its eternal capital. In 1950 Jordan annexed eastern Jerusalem, a move recognised only by Pakistan. Foreign states did not recognise Jordanian or Israeli rule over the respective areas of the city under their control.[8]

United Nations

  • Template:Country data UN The United Nations recommends that Jerusalem be placed under a special international regime, a corpus separatum, but envisions the city eventually becoming the capital of two states, Israel and Palestine.[11] It does not recognise Israel's proclamation of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,[12] and any actions taken by Israel to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the city are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.[12]

The United Nations believes it has a legitimate interest, on behalf of the international community, regarding the protection of Jerusalem's unique spiritual, religious and cultural dimensions. Its position on the question of Jerusalem is based upon General Assembly resolution 181 (II) November 29, 1947, which provides for the full territorial internationalisation of Jerusalem: "The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations."[13]

A total of six UN Security Council resolutions on Israel have denounced or declared invalid Israel's annexation of the city, including UNSC resolution 478 which affirmed that the enactment of the 1980 Basic Jerusalem Law declaring unified Jerusalem as Israel's "eternal and indivisible" capital, was a violation of international law. The resolution advised member states to withdraw their diplomatic representation from the city as a punitive measure.

European Union

The EU opposes measures which would prejudge the outcome of permanent status negotiations on Jerusalem, basing its policy on the principles set out in UN Security Council Resolution 242, notably the impossibility of acquisition of territory by force. It will not recognise any changes to pre-1967 borders with regard to Jerusalem, unless agreed between the parties. It has also called for the reopening of Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, in accordance with the Road Map, in particular Orient House and the Chamber of Commerce, and has called on the Israeli government to cease all discriminatory treatment of Palestinians in East Jerusalem, especially concerning work permits, access to education and health services, building permits, house demolitions, taxation and expenditure."[18]


Knesset in Jerusalem Israel

Israel's parliament

  • Israel Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of the State of Israel, undivided, under exclusive Israeli sovereignty.

Israel claims it acquired sovereignty over the western part of the city in 1948. Upon the departure of Britain, the area remained without a sovereign and during the war, Israel took control of it by a lawful act of self-defence.[8] Following the 1967 Six Day War, Israel extended its jurisdiction and administration over eastern Jerusalem, establishing new municipal borders. It also ensured protection and freedom of access to the holy sites of the city. Although at the time Israel informed the UN that its actions had not constituted annexation but rather administrative and municipal integration, later rulings by the Supreme Court of Israel indicated that the eastern sector had become part of Israel. Israel was of the view that since Jordan had taken the eastern part of the city by an act of aggression in 1948, it never acquired sovereignty, and since Israel conquered it in 1967 during a war of self-defence, it had the stronger right to the land.[8]

In July 1980, the Israeli Knesset passed the Jerusalem Law which reconfirmed the unification of the city and its status as capital.[19] Expanded East Jerusalem has not been officially annexed by Israel.[20]

Israel believes that there is no basis in international law for the position supporting a status of corpus separatum for the city of Jerusalem. Israel holds that it was a non-binding proposal which never materialised, having become irrelevant when the Arab states rejected UN Resolution 181 and invaded the fledgling State of Israel. Neither has there ever been any agreement, treaty, or international understanding which applies the corpus separatum concept to Jerusalem.[21]

The Israeli Parliament together with the presidential, legislative, judicial and administrative offices are all located within the city.

Palestinian National Authority

The Palestinian National Authority views East Jerusalem as occupied territory according to UN Security Council Resolution 242. The whole city is subject to permanent status negotiations, which will result in a Palestinian state exercising sovereignty over part of the territory. This will serve as the capital of the State of Palestine.[22] Jerusalem should be an open city, with no physical partition. Freedom of worship, access and protection of sites of religious significance shall be guaranteed.[23]

United States

  • United States The United States views as desirable the establishing of an international regime for the city.[24] Its final status must be resolved through negotiations[25] and the United States does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.[26]

United States policy on Jerusalem refers specifically to the geographic boundaries of the "City of Jerusalem" based on the UN's corpus separatum proposal. De jure, Jerusalem is part of the Palestine Mandate and has not been under sovereignty of any country since.[27] President Bush (1989–1993) stated that the United States does not believe new settlements should be built in East Jerusalem[28] and that it does not want to see Jerusalem "divided". The Obama administration has condemned expansion of Gilo, as well as evictions and house demolitions affecting Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.[29]

United Kingdom position

According to the United Kingdom, Jerusalem was supposed to be a corpus separatum, or international city administered by the UN. This was never set up: immediately after the UNGA resolution partitioning Palestine, Israel occupied West Jerusalem. Jordan occupied East Jerusalem (including the Old City). The UK recognised the de facto control of Israel and Jordan, but not sovereignty. In 1967, Israel captured East Jerusalem, which the UK considers an illegal military occupation. The UK Embassy to Israel is in Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem. In East Jerusalem there is a Consulate-General, with a Consul-General who is not accredited to any state: this is an expression of the view that no state has sovereignty over Jerusalem.

The UK believes that the city’s status has yet to be determined, and maintains that it should be settled in an overall agreement between the parties concerned, but considers that the city should not again be divided. The Declaration of Principles and the Interim Agreement, signed by Israel and the PLO on 13 September 1993 and 28 September 1995 respectively, left the issue of the status of Jerusalem to be decided in the ‘permanent status’ negotiations between the two parties.

UK Foreign Office position on Jerusalem

Other countries

  • Canada Canada: "Canada considers the status of Jerusalem can be resolved only as part of a general settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. Canada does not recognize Israel's unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem." [30]
  • Denmark Denmark: "Israel has declared Jerusalem to be it's capital. Due to the conflict and unclear situation concerning the city's status foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv."[31]
  • Finland Finland: "Israel considers Jerusalem to be it's capital city. The international community has not recognized this. The Finnish embassy is in Tel Aviv."[32]
  • France France: "It is up to the parties to come to a final and overall agreement with regard to the final status, which would put an end to the conflict. France believes that Jerusalem must become the capital of the two States."[33]
  • Germany Germany: "Capital city (not internationally recognized): Jerusalem" [34]
  • Italy Italy: "Endorsing the stance of the European Union in this regard, Italy does not recognise the legitimacy of any border changes that are not agreed between the parties. The question of Jerusalem is extremely sensitive, being the home to the Holy Places belonging to the three great monotheistic religions. To resolve this issue it will be necessary for the parties to reach a difficult, but possible, agreement to safeguard the special character of the city and meet the expectations of both peoples." [35]
  • Japan Japan: "Japan cannot recognize such a unilateral change to the legal status of an occupied territory, which is in total violation of the relevant United Nations resolutions." "Japan believes that issues relating to Jerusalem should be resolved through the permanent status negotiations between the parties concerned, and until such a solution is achieved both parties should refrain from taking any unilateral action relating to the situation in Jerusalem."[36]
  • Norway Norway: "Norway considers the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem to be in violation of international law, as does the entire international community." [37]
  • Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia: A just solution must be reached regarding the issue of Jerusalem in line with UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. It views the Israeli expansion of the geographical boundaries of Jerusalem as illegal and a violation of international agreements.[38]
  • Sweden Sweden: "Sweden, like other states, does not recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, which is why the embassy is in Tel Aviv." [39]
  • Template:Country data Vatican City Vatican City: The Holy See has expressed the position that Jerusalem should become an international city, either under the United Nations or a related organization. Pope Pius XII was the among the first to make such a proposal in the 1949 encyclical Redemptoris Nostri Cruciatus. This idea was later re-proposed during the papacies of John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.

Location of foreign embassies

Subsequent to UNSC resolution 478, 13 countries (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, the Netherlands, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela) which had maintained their embassies in Jerusalem, moved their embassies to Tel Aviv. Costa Rica and El Salvador moved theirs back to Jerusalem in 1984. Costa Rica moved its embassy back to Tel Aviv in 2006 followed by El Salvador a few weeks later.[40][41] No international embassy remains in Jerusalem, although Paraguay and Bolivia have theirs in Mevasseret Zion, a suburb 10 km west of the city.[42]

Various countries recognized Israel as a state in the 1940s and 1950s, but they did not recognize Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem. There is an international sui generis consular corps in Jerusalem. It is commonly referred to as the "Consular Corps of the Corpus Separatum". The states that have maintained consulates in Jerusalem say that it was part of Palestine, and in a de jure sense, has not since become part of any other sovereignty.[10] The Netherlands maintains an office in Jerusalem serving mainly Israeli citizens. Other foreign governments base Consulate General offices in Jerusalem, including Greece, the United Kingdom and the United States. These consular offices primarily serve the Palestinian population of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and their Consuls General do not submit letters of credentials to the Israeli President or foreign ministry, but instead, deliver them to the administrative governor of Jerusalem.[43] Since the President of Israel resides in Jerusalem and confirms the foreign diplomats, the ambassadors have to travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to submit letters of credentials upon being appointed.

US Embassy

The United States maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, and a Consulate General in Jerusalem as part of the "Consular Corps of the Corpus Separatum".[44] Under the Constitution of the United States the President has exclusive authority to recognize foreign sovereignty over territory.[45] The Congress has adopted a number of concurrent resolutions which support recognition of a united Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and urging Jerusalem as the site of the U.S. embassy. The resolutions expressed the "sense" of the House or Senate but had no binding effect. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 stated that "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999". The Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel concluded that the provisions of the bill invade exclusive presidential authorities in the field of foreign affairs and are unconstitutional.[46] The fact that a U.S. embassy is located in a particular city, like Tel Aviv, does not legally mean that the U.S. recognizes that city as a capital. Experts in the field of foreign relations law have said that, faced with congressional force majeure, the State Department could simply construct another embassy in Jerusalem, and continue to argue that the U.S. doesn't recognize Jerusalem as the capital."[47] The U.S. Consulate is building an expansion in the neighborhood of Talpiot to provide visa and other consular services to residents of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories. The construction site is often mistaken as a site for the future US Embassy; however there are currently no plans to use this location in this manner.[48]

See also


  1. "Brian Whitaker. "Rivals for holy city may have to turn to God." Guardian Unlimited. August 22, 2000; "Marilyn Henry. "Disney response on Jerusalem exhibit calms Arabs." Jerusalem Post Service October 1, 1999; Deborah Sontag. "Two Dreams of Jerusalem Converge in a Blur" New York Times. May 21, 2000.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Moshe Hirsch, Deborah Housen-Couriel, Ruth Lapidoth. Whither Jerusalem?: proposals and positions concerning the future of Jerusalem, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1995. pg. 15. ISBN 9041100776
  3. 3.0 3.1 See Governing Jerusalem: again on the world's agenda, By Ira Sharkansky, Wayne State University Press, 1996, ISBN 0814325920, page 23 [1]
  4. UN security Council Resolution 478
  5. Netanyahu to Bush: J'lem to stay under Israeli control for eternity, Haartez, 10-01-2008
  6. See for example Article 28 of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine [2]; and ICJ Reports 2004, CONSTRUCTION OF A WALL (ADVISORY OPINION) page 165 para. 70, page 188 para 129. Paul J.I.M. de Waart said "The Court ascertained the legal significance of the ‘sacred trust of civilization’ of the League of Nations (LoN) in respect of the 1922 Palestine Mandate as the origin of the present responsibility of the United Nations", in 'International Court of Justice Firmly Walled in the Law of Power in the Israeli–Palestinian Peace Process', Leiden Journal of International Law, 18 (2005), pp. 467–487
  7. General Assembly resolution 48/158D, 20 December 1993. para. 5(c) stipulated that the permanent status negotiations should guarantee "arrangements for peace and security of all States in the region, including those named in resolution 181(II) of 29 November 1947
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Lapidoth, Ruth; Moshe Hirsch (1994). The Jerusalem Question and Its Resolution. Martinus Nijhoff. ISBN 0792328930. 
  9. Korman, Sharon (1996). The Right of Conquest. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198280076. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 See "Corpus Separatum §33 Jerusalem" Marjorie M. Whiteman editor, US State Department Digest of International Law, vol. 1 (Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1963) pages 593-4;Foreign relations of the United States, 1948. The Near East, South Asia, and Africa (in two parts) Volume V, Part 2, Page 748; "Governing Jerusalem: again on the world's agenda", By Ira Sharkansky, Wayne State University Press, 1996, ISBN 0814325920, page 23; and John Quigley, "The Legal Status Of Jerusalem Under International Law, The Turkish Yearbook Of International Relations, [VOL. XXIV, 1994] pp 11-25
  11. Jerusalem must be capital of both Israel and Palestine, Ban says, UN News Centre, (October 28, 2009)
  12. 12.0 12.1 GA resolution 63/30
  13. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 November 29, 1947, Part III. The City of Jerusalem [3]
  14. Europe Affirms Support for a Corpus Separatum for Greater Jerusalem
  15. Reaction by Foreign Minister Sharon on the EU stand on Jerusalem, MFA, (March 11, 1999)
  16. EU rebukes Israel for Jerusalem settlement expansion (EUObserver, Nov. 19, 2009)
    "If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states."
  17. EU: Jerusalem should be capital of two states (BBC, Dec. 8, 2009)
  18. The EU & the Middle East Peace Process: FAQ, European Commission, retrieved June 20, 2007.
  19. "Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel". Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 1980-07-30. Retrieved 2007-04-02. 
  20. Lustick, Ian S. Article (January 1, 1997). Has Israel annexed East Jerusalem?, Middle East Policy
  21. The Status of Jerusalem, March 1999. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  22. In the Palestine Liberation Organization's Palestinian Declaration of Independence of 1988, Jerusalem is stated to be the capital of the State of Palestine. In 2000 the Palestinian Authority passed a law designating East Jerusalem as such, and in 2002 this law was ratified by Chairman Arafat. See Arafat Signs Law Making Jerusalem Palestinian Capital, People's Daily, published October 6, 2002; Arafat names Jerusalem as capital, BBC News, published October 6, 2002.
  23. The Palestinian Official Position, Palestinian National Authority, Ministry of Information, copy from, retrieved June 20, 2007.
  24. See General Assembly, A/L.523/Rev.1, 4 July 1967
  25. U.S.: Only Israel, Palestinians should decide Jerusalem's future (Haaretz, Dec. 9, 2009)
  26. A New Struggle For Jerusalem (New York Times, March 2, 1997)
  27. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963: Near East, 1962-1963, V. XVIII. DC: GPO, 2000, 152. Memorandum of conversation, February 7, 1963. Crawford (NE)-Campbell (IO)-Bar-Haim (Israeli Embassy) meeting: U.S. position on the status of Jerusalem
  28. U.S. Policy: Jerusalem's Final Status must Be Negotiated
  29. US fury as Israel approves 900 new housing units in Gilo settlement (Times, Nov. 18, 2009)
  30. Canadian Policy on Key Issues in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
  31. "Israel har erklæret Jerusalem for sin hovedstad (ca. 900.000 indbyggere). På grund af konflikten og den uafklarede situation vedrørende byens status opretholdes udenlandske ambassader i Tel Aviv."
  32. "Pääkaupunki: Israel pitää Jerusalemia pääkaupunkinaan. Tätä ei ole kansainvälinen yhteisö tunnustanut. Suomen suurlähetystö sijaitsee Tel Avivissa."
  33. Jerusalem’s status: the statement made by the Israeli Prime Minister is detrimental to the final status negotiations, French Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, (May 21, 2009)
  34. Hauptstadt (international nicht anerkannt): Jerusalem (Yeruschalayim)
  35. Interview with Minister Frattini: “Italy is seeking a just solution to the conflict, without unilateral actions and preconditions"
  36. UN Document A/56/480, 17 October 2001
  38. Kingdom reiterates to UN its position on Jerusalem,, (January 7, 1998)
  39. "Huvudstad: Enligt Israels ensidiga utropande Jerusalem. Sverige erkänner, liksom flertalet andra stater, emellertid inte Jerusalem som Israels huvudstad varför ambassaden är belägen i Tel Aviv. "
  40. Costa Rica to relocate embassy to TA, Jerusalem Post, published August 17, 2006.
  41. El Salvador to move embassy in Israel from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, People's Daily, published August 26, 2006.
  42. Embassies and Consulates in Israel, Israel Science and Technology Homepage, retrieved June 20, 2007.
  43. Country Profile: Israel
  44. See Whiteman, "Corpus Separatum"
  45. See Restatement (3rd) Foreign Relations Law of the United States, American Law Institute, 1986, §§ 203 Recognition or Acceptance of Governments and §§ 204 Recognition and Maintaining Diplomatic Relations Law of the United States.
  46. See Justice Department Memorandum Opinion For The Counsel To The President, May 16, 1995 [4]
  47. Marshall J. Breger, "Jerusalem Gambit: How We Should Treat Jerusalem Is a Matter of U.S. Constitutional Law as Well as Middle Eastern Politics," National Review 23 Oct. 1995
  48. "Diplomatic construction", Jerusalem Post, published December 1, 2005.

External links

Jerusalem maps

B'Tselem - Maps: [5]

Jewish Virtual Library:

  • Greater Jerusalem: [8]

"The area known as 'Greater' Jerusalem usually refers to an approximately 100-square-mile (260 km2) space surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem. This area includes both West and East Jerusalem, including the adjacent neighborhoods outside of the municipal boundaries of the city. ... Regarding the route of Israel’s security fence in the Jerusalem area, there have been a few competing strategies: to reinforce the municipal boundaries of the city, to alter the demographics in Israel’s favor, and to permanently draw the lines for 'Greater' Jerusalem."

  • Metropolitan and Greater Jerusalem: [9]
  • Arab East Jerusalem with greater Jerusalem: [10].
  • Jerusalem municipal boundaries: [11]
  • 2000 Camp David Summit map. Israeli proposal for the division and expansion of Jerusalem: [12]

"The Israeli proposal included the following main points: 1. Jewish areas outside Jerusalem's municipal boundaries would be annexed to the city, including such population centers as Givat Ze'ev, Ma'aleh Adumim and Gush Etzion. (Gush Etzion is a major settlement block just south of Jerusalem, and is not shown on the map)." (Information Regarding Israel's Security).

Map Centre of OCHA oPt (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - occupied Palestinian territory): [14]

  • East Jerusalem - closure map. March 2007: [15].

Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA). Jerusalem maps section: [16]

  • Greater Jerusalem: [17] [18].
  • Jerusalem municipal boundaries: [19]
  • Old City and Holy/Historical Basin area: [20]. At the 2001 Taba Summit Israeli negotiators presented to the Palestinians the idea of creating a special international regime for the 'Holy Basin' -- an area including the Old City and some areas outside the walls including the Mount of Olives cemetery.

Other links

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs study on the Division of Jerusalem. Nadav Shagrai, "Jerusalem: The Dangers of Division. An Alternative to Separation from the Arab Neighborhoods" (2008): [21]

Palestine Center report on a briefing by Stephen Zunes. Lehman, Wendy. "The Evolution of U.S. Policy on Jerusalem: International Law versus the Rule of Force," (2001): [22]pt:Posições sobre Jerusalém

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